Last week, I wrote about the programme in general and my thoughts after watching the first in the two-part series presented and put together by Gerry Robinson which explores care homes and how they can be improved.
In the meantime, the Guardian has published an article on their ‘Joe Public’ blog highlighting some of the negatives about the programme and its aim stating that, for all Gerry’s good intentions
the programme undermines itself through glib responses and cheap-shot TV documentary trickery. Gerry’s saintly interventions with residents are contrasted with portraits of indifferent, surly staff and a collage of shots of a favoured home suggests wildly unrealistic levels of staff and activities.
More seriously there is a disingenuous failure to acknowledge basic truths about the relationship between care costs and quality. The ambush and skewering of a breathtakingly stupid general nurse in temporary charge of a home and telegenic shots of the suffering there are frankly exploitative.
Perhaps I’m viewing it through different eyes and I can understand an accusion of exploitation. I recognised a reality in the programme that needs to be more widely seen. I don’t think all the staff, even those in some of the worse homes, were presented as surly or indifferent. I think what did come across that there is little funding in the sector and a drive for profits at the expense of good staffing ratios.
Partly, this is due to the costs of staffing and this was highlighted in the programmes. Private sector, profit-making companies have little incentive to up staff ratios if no demands are made of them.
The other element that was highlighted was the poor inspection regime – the best way to improve quality of care is to improve motivation and numbers of staff. Good quality staff are happy staff. Staff who are pushed to the limits cannot provide any quality interaction when they are running between one person and another attending solely to personal care with no time for the interactions to have much quality to them. Staff don’t want to work like that. They want to engage and have a job beyond washing and changing. Interaction makes a job more interesting and exciting.
Often it is about time – and time is precious. The relationship between care costs and quality IS crucial. If pressures are placed on the funding for residential care, quality will suffer. When local authorities are forced to drive down prices again and again, the quality will be felt in a real sense.
I can see how we, in the care sector, can draw up our shutters and talk about impossibilies. There is only a question of money. And that is the issue that needs to be addressed.
As long as the government talk about saving money by keeping people at home for longer, there has to be an understanding and acceptance that for some people with some needs, residential and nursing care is the answer and it can’t be ignored or pushed to the sidelines because more can and must be done to support those who are the among the most vulnerable and who do need 24 hour care environments. Sometimes costs can’t be cut.